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No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusation, False Witness, and Other Terrors of Our Times (Wall Street Journal Book) Hardcover – January 7, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wall Street Journal editorialist Rabinowitz has collected her stories on false accusations of sex crimes into one harrowing account of failed justice. Though readers may be familiar with the court cases she details, which took place in the 80s and 90s, coming upon them all together is nonetheless chilling. Rabinowitz devotes the most attention to the Amiraults, a woman and her two grown children who ran a successful preschool in Malden, Mass., and who were all sent to jail on charges of child sex abuse. No scientific or physical evidence linked them to the crimes; rather, the courts relied on the testimony of children who appeared on the stand after lengthy coaching sessions in which counselors had used anatomically correct dolls and leading questions to encourage them to accuse their teachers. At times the author's careful documentation begs for interpretation. Why, for instance, did the public buy the increasingly bizarre accusations of teachers tying naked children to trees in the schoolyard, or of anal penetration with knives that left no physical mark? Rabinowitz leaves such speculation to others. But she presents her cases expertly-so well that her stories helped reverse the convictions of five people, which in turn helped her win the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. She writes clearly and for the most part resists melodrama, letting the facts speak eloquently for themselves.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter comes this unsettling look at some of the sex-abuse cases of the 1980s and 1990s that saw innocent men and women convicted of charges that, in hindsight, seem absurd. Take the case of Wenatchee, a smallish city in Washington State, where an overzealous police detective, acting largely on the allegations of his two foster daughters, led an investigation that resulted in the arrest of more than 40 people on thousands of counts of sex abuse. Long after countless lives were destroyed, the "victims" admitted publicly that none of the "crimes" ever happened. The book is full of stories like this about ludicrous allegations that were taken seriously by people who should have known better. The last two decades were the heyday of the sexual-abuse witch-hunts, and this book provides a valuable record of that dark, bizarre time. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Wall Street Journal Book
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st Edition, 1st Printing edition (March 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743228340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743228343
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,131,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 97 people found the following review helpful By David Thomson on April 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The very hint of being a child molester can destroy the life of even the most virtuous among us. Dorothy Rabinowitz has witnessed first hand the persecution and imprisonment of those who were almost certainly wrongly convicted of this vile crime. Perhaps not since the Salem witch trials has such a miscarriage of justice occurred within the United States. These unfortunate victims have been arrested, tried, and convicted, on evidence so weak that it defies common sense. A Saturday Night Live and Monty Python comedy skit could easily be created out of these court cases. A cynic is indeed tempted to burst out laughing at the utter madness of it all. Isn't our system of justice premised upon the concept that one's guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt? If so, how does a rational adult take seriously a child's claim that a knife had been jammed into her rectum when there wasn't even the slightest bit of physical evidence to support the charge? Pseudo educated psychologists were able to present junk science theories to juries that should have never been allowed into the courtroom. Heck, in most cases, the initial suspicions concerning the suspects should have been dismissed by the police after no more than a few hours investigative work. The accused were, however, intractably caught in a Catch 22 predicament. "The rule of thumb guiding child interviewers in these cases was a simple one," declares Rabinowitz, "if children said they had been molested, they were telling the truth; those who denied they had been abused were not telling the truth and were described as `not ready to disclose...'" The suspects were obviously doomed the very first moment when their nightmare began.
The author strongly suggests that the citizens of Massachusetts should feel a particular sense of shame.
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Samuel washburn on April 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading the sections of the book about The Amiraults. It's just heartbreaking. Thank you so much documenting forever the The Cruel tryannies that the Massachusetts "Elite Therapeutocracy" impose on people like the Amiraults who can't defend themselves.
The parellels between this episode and the Salem Witchcraft hysteria are sickening considering how we should have learned from that experience: Child Witnesses; zero corroborating physical evidence, financial gain for the accusers at the expense of the accused. Sadly the one parellel that does not exist is that within several years the Salem accusers and prosecuters admitted they were wrong and asked the forgiveness of those they had accused and ruined. Harsbarger, O'Reilly and the others have yet to do that and persist in torturing what's left of the Amiraults everytime they attempt to make the world recognize their innocence. I guess Harshbarger's Harvard experience must have inbued him with the same elite arrogance that Cotton Mather (Witchcraft judges' advisor) must have picked up there 350 years ago! Mather ended up being spit upon on the streets of Boston and reviled by history once the Salem hysteria subsided. Harshbarger and the others deserve a worse fate. People should know better by now!
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I have the greatest respect for Dorothy Rabinowitz and the work she did reporting on these stories; I credit her as much as anyone with the Amirault women being freed from jail. However, since I had read the articles she originally wrote about these cases, I found very little new in this book. I would have liked to have learned much more about the parents of the 'abused' children, the prosecutors bringing these cases, and particularly about the 'expert' witnesses who brain-washed the supposed child victims into making the accusations.
I believe this is an important book, a permanent record of truly heinous prosecutorial misconduct. It could have been more, however, and I hope that the rest of this story will eventually be told.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Michael Booker on June 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The negative reviews to this book seem to be saying that, if we ever say that someone is falsely accused of child molestation, then we're pretending that molestation doesn't exist. This is *precisely* the twisted logic that rainroaded innocent people into jail for crimes that never took place.
Rabinowitz has to claim early on in her book things that are so obvious that it hurts to read them. *Of course* child molestation is a horrific crime which merits society's strongest possible response. That does not, however, mean that every accusation is true, and that normal stadards of evidence and logic can be discarded if the charge is sufficiently evil.
The cases that Rabinowitz recounts are not just of innocent people convicted of crimes they didn't commit. Her stories are about innocent people convicted of crimes that weren't commited by *anyone*. The only child molesters in these stories are the "helping professionals" who have psychologically maimed children by brainwashing them into believing that they were sexually violated.
I give Rabinowitz credit for her determination. I have quibbles with her writing style, but her work is a powerful resource.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By amanda on April 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
in our increasingly pc culture, dorothy rabinowitz's exploration of how false abuse accusations can, and often do, ruin lives is a fascinating and hearbreaking reality that we all must face. this is a brilliant, moving book from a talented modern journalist
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